Swimming and running present two very different exercise modalities in terms of biomechanics, energy expenditure, and stresses, not to mention that they occur in two very unique environments. However that hasn't prevented humans from becoming particularly adept at both of these activities, which makes sense given the geographic distribution of human populations, think of it as either running or swimming to get to something or to get away from something else. This means that there exist varying levels of intensity with which we can embark on either exercise, which is great news for everyone from the beginner to the elite athlete. In addition, if you take a look around at the local Y I almost assure you that the those people participating in these activities will cover a Huge spectrum of Age, from young to old, meaning that we can reap the healthy benefits from either event throughout our lives.

What we really want to know is which one will provide the greatest bang for your buck, and this really depends on 1) one's goals: whether it's purely for fat-loss, a combination of strength and body-recomposition, or to improve at a particular event; 2) one's physical restrictions: if there are orthopeadic limitations or pre-existing injuries then the impact stresses involved with running may due more harm to your lower extremities than good, conversely, while non-weight bearing, most swimming strokes involve repeatedly using the shoulder joint through a large range of motion which can aggrivate existing injuries or lead to overuse injuries if volume is not properly managed; and 3) Beginning Fitness and weight levels: as stated above, running stresses can easily add up on the lower body due to it's weight-bearing nature, and this will be exascerbated by increased body weight, and swimming takes some time and fortitude to become comfortable with in regards to breathing, especially in deeper water.

From a caloric standpoint there are several factors that effect energy expenditure, namely one's body-weight (heavier equates to more calories used for a given intensity) and the level of Exertion. At a low level of intensity for a 155lb individual, 1 hour of swimming at an easy pace will burn approx. 422 calories. Running at a similar level, 5 miles an hour or about 11-12 minute miles will burn nearly 2X the calories of swimming, or approx. 880 cal. This disparity remains as intensity levels increase.

Some advantages of running is that it is a very basic human movement to which the body adapts and becomes efficient with very quickly. The true benefits of running/jogging occur outdoors and off of the treadmill where the combination of variable terrain, wind resistance, and the energy needed to propel the body forward, plus it's always nice to connect with and observe your surroundings (these benefits are all but lost when on a treadmill, which actually leads to more damaging impact forces on the lower body). Temperance and discipline are the key to embarking on any exercise endeavor, especially with running. A good approach is to begin on a track, or a field, or a trail, the softer the surface the better. Walk vigorously for 10 minutes, then Jog for the length of the track or field and then walk the corners or edges and repeat for a 20 min, gradually adding time or jogging for longer periods of time. One can also use a timed approach, jog for 30 sec, walk for 30-45 sec and repeat for 20 min, gradually reducing the rest period until you can jog continuously. Moderation is the key, repeat this protocol 4 times a week on non-consecutive days, and on the others, either walk, bike, or swim! (I'm a little biased as I love to run, but swimming fantastic to)

While Swimming may burn far fewer calories it is still an extraordinarily beneficial. It is a far better exercise choice for anyone with joint issues or who is too overweight or just large to reap the rewards of running without significant discomfort. These individuals can swim until they've lost a certain amount of weight that will allow them to embark on a healthy running program. Swimming provides a weight-less yet consistent resistance from water that enhances and promotes systemic or whole body strengthening which could make it an excellent primer for anyone before the begin a free-weight resistance training program. Furthermore, swimming encourages proper and deep breathing mechanics which can be a surprisingly relaxing ability to gain, and the slight pressure of water on the body increases blood-flow to the extremities. To begin a swimming program it would behoove you to learn the proper strokes and take a lesson, particularly if you haven't been in the pool for many years. Then go get wet for a half an hour and switch strokes every few laps to reduce the likely-hood of overuse injuries in the shoulders. Another option is to swim in the shallow end and walk lap-lengths as a break if you aren't prepared to swim continuously. Above all, never underestimate the demands of simply treading water: go for 5 minutes at the end of a swim and add a minute each time.

As you can see, the benefits from both swimming and running are vast and plentiful. If employed properly into and exercise regime then they can give back much vitality and enjoyment to your body for many years to come. Moderation and instruction are the keystones to these activities, and perhaps a combination of the two would produce a great physical synergy.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Beaman is the Author of "Happiness & Prosperity in the 21st Century: The Five Paths To a Transformed Life". He has authored over 100 articles relating to the Five Paths including articles on Financial Prosperity, Emotional Wellness, Physical Health, Intellectual fulfillment, and Spiritual Security. He enjoyed a highly successful career in Economics and Finance prior to establishing The Steve Beaman Group. The "SBG" is an organization dedicated to helping people on their journey's of life.